For Roberto Salazar Acra, it was one simple email in 2016 to Lewis-Clark State College that helped make a drastic change in his life.
Roberto grew up in Toluca, Mexico, located approximately 30 miles west of Mexico City. With a population of 900,000, Toluca is the capital of the country’s central State of Mexico. However, with an elevation of about 8,790 feet, it’s the third-highest city in the world, which made it an interesting place to grow up.
It’s not exactly the ideal altitude to play tennis at, especially in the thin air.
Roberto, however, was a skilled player. He took his high school classes online, which allowed him to practice his tennis six hours a day and travel across Mexico to compete. The challenging schedule had its highs and lows.
“What kept me motivated throughout these years was trying to make my family proud, especially my parents that worked very hard to always support me in each step of the way,” Roberto said. “This experience helped me grow not only as a tennis player but also on the personal level, so I am very grateful for all the people that worked with me during this process.”
Roberto wanted to study abroad and continue his tennis career. He sent emails to college tennis coaches throughout the United States, including Lewis-Clark State College tennis coach Kai Fong. Roberto said he had heard about LC State because of its national championship-caliber athletic teams, including its men’s tennis program, which was ranked in the NAIA Top 10 at the time.
“I remember contacting Coach Kai by email. I sent him all my personal information as well as my tennis video, and from that moment the rest is history,” Roberto said. “It is crazy how one email can change completely the path of your life.”
The email started the process for Roberto to enroll at the college, site unseen, for the 2016 fall semester.
“Aside from choosing LCSC because of the tennis program as well as it is considered one of the top public colleges in the West of the United States. I chose LCSC because from the first day I started my enrollment process, the International Programs Office and coach Kai went hand-in-hand with me by providing all the resources to make my enrollment process as straightforward as possible,” Roberto said. “This showed me that LCSC was a college that really cared for its students. So for me that was crucial in the moment of deciding where to study.”
It also helped him pursue his dream of being a student-athlete in the U.S., which helped him overcome leaving his family and comfort zone in Mexico. The decision to attend LC State turned out to be a perfect fit.
“LCSC offered me the opportunity to have the most personalized experience in each class,” Roberto said. “Every professor I worked with during my experience at LCSC was willing to make me feel comfortable and confident as an international student. They always taught at the highest level.”
Roberto knew he wanted to pursue a career in business and graduated in May 2020 with a degree in business administration and management and a minor in economics.
“I was lucky to have the support of all the Business Division faculty,” Roberto said. “They helped me not only succeed as a student but also now I see the rewards of their mentorship in my professional career.”
Roberto said he has a lot of professors to thank for helping him earn his degree, including his advisor, Billy Lemus, who constantly pushed and encouraged him and helped him succeed as a student-athlete.
“My favorite thing about attending LCSC is definitely the people,” Roberto said. “What makes LCSC standout from other universities is its capability of creating a unique environment where students, faculty, and the community of Lewiston are always interacting with each other. Being away from home was never easy, but the Lewiston community and all the people I met at LCSC always treated me as one of their own. They made me feel at home so for that I will always be grateful.”
He’s also grateful to have played tennis for Kai.
“His support all these years has contributed vastly to my tennis and professional career.” Roberto said. “It was not easy to be a tennis player for coach Kai. It requires lots of discipline and mental toughness to succeed. By reflecting on the past, I can say now that coach Kai has shaped me into who I am today, and I have acquired the desire to reach my maximum potential by focusing all my strength into practice and determination to become the best version of myself.”
Kai also was instrumental in one of Roberto’s best memories at LC State.
“During my senior year I won against an NCAA DI player from the University of Idaho,” Roberto said. “This memory is very special because I remember I lost the first set, then just right before starting the second set, I had a quick chat with coach Kai. He came right next to me and told me something that changed my mindset. He said something along the lines of ‘battles are won in the mind, if you don’t believe that you can beat your opponent, you never will.’ I’ll always be grateful to coach Kai.”
Roberto says he stays in touch with his former teammates and others as his career continues to blossom.
Following LC State, Roberto was accepted into the University of Barcelona Business School in Spain where he earned a master’s in international business in 2021. He also played for the school’s tennis team and won the silver medal in doubles at the Catalonian Universities Championship.
While pursuing his master’s, Roberto also interned at Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s largest private pharmaceutical companies. Following his internship, he scored the highest grade on the Trainee Final Assessment, which helped him become a junior purchasing manager at the company.
In August of this year, Roberto became part of the Worldwide Print Lifecycle Services Team for Hewlett Packard in Barcelona, which is the computer hardware company’s largest office outside of the U.S. His team oversees the management and portfolio creating of HP Care Pack services, which is an upgrade or extension of the standard one-year warranty on HP products.
“As a recent graduate, the thing I like the most is being part of one of the best companies in the world by having the opportunity to learn from the best professionals,” Roberto says. “I think that being open to learn from other people’s experience is one of the most important things you can do for your own career and personal development.”
Roberto’s advice to recent graduates is to always believe in yourself and not be afraid of new challenges.
“From my international experience, I would say that if you have a dream, just go for it, take that risk,” Roberto says. “Either applying to your favorite company, study abroad, or start a business, go for it. We certainly don’t know what is going to happen. Maybe you will not succeed at the beginning, but it’s OK. Everything we do is a process where step-by-step we will build our own path and accomplish our goals.”
He also encourages any student, especially abroad, to consider attending LC State.
“I would encourage students to study at LCSC because of the top education it offers,” he said, “ As a student at LCSC, you will have the support and mentorship from all the faculty members. From my experience, I can guarantee that LCSC is the ideal college for pursuing both your current academic interests and unexplored ones.”